Creative Layover: New York

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 08-23-2019

Two years ago, we began the Creative Layover series, visiting some of the world’s most creative cities. Starting at our home base in San Francisco, we traveled to nine countries across six continents (sorry, Antarctica), and we now find ourselves in our final destination: New York City. Read on to join us for our 10th Creative Layover as we explore the art of a local photographer, photo manipulator and illustrator.

New York, New York

Welcome to the cultural capital of the world! Crowded subways, towering skyscrapers and throngs of tourists are no match for the unwavering creativity that erupts from every corner of the city. New York is home to some of the world’s best museums, galleries, film, theatre, cuisine, music, dance (take a breath), literature, unconventional performance art, even graffiti, and that list barely scratches the surface. With art at its finest, not to mention bagels that simply can’t be beat, what better place could there be to take a little detour? This kind of global perspective is unique to New York. Coming from around the world and taking inspiration from their city, these three artists create pieces that can be found, well… only in New York!

Photographer – Kristina Varaksina

Russian-born and New York–based Kristina Varaksina is a commercial, fine-art and fashion photographer with an eye for creating intrigue in her work. Drawn to photographing people, she is no stranger to capturing unexpected beauty against simple backdrops. Kristina’s focus is to capture human emotion and the psychological impressions of her subjects’ minds, permitting the characters to project their internal reality. The recipient of multiple prestigious photography awards—like Prix de la Photographie, Communications Arts Photography Annual, Int’l Photography Awards, PDN Faces, and many more—Kristina’s work can be found in several galleries around the world.

Self-portrait #3. This image is a part of my ongoing self-portrait series dedicated to the exploration of vulnerabilities and insecurities and the self-search of a woman and of an artist.

Anti-quity. This is a fashion story based on a pastel color palette and juxtaposition of traditional beauty canons with modern notions about what is beautiful.

Cat Grace. The idea behind this shot was to highlight the uniqueness of the model – Yana. I met her on another shoot and was struck by how graceful and ethereal she was. I immediately thought about getting a cat that would represent her qualities so vividly.

Kristina’s tips, tricks and parting words of advice:

On adjusting color in Photoshop: “Whether I’m shooting fashion, beauty or portraits, I often have to adjust colors in Photoshop. To do this, I create a Selective Color Adjustment layer and move the sliders to achieve the color I want. I like this method because it’s very quick and I don’t need to make a mask around the areas I want to change.”

On persistence and resilience: “Don’t give up. It’s quite hard to be an artist sometimes: you get discouraged by people, clients or other circumstances. Focus on what inspires you, and what makes you, well, you.”

Photo Manipulator – Mischelle Moy

Mischelle Moy is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who uses digital photography and vibrant photo manipulation to create another world that mirrors ours. Inspired by infrared photography, neon lights and fruity sunsets, she makes images that virtually transport her and the viewer to a parallel universe. Like postcards to a psychedelic paradise, Mischelle’s work comes out of her technicolor imagination as she travels around the country. At any given moment, you’re likely to find Mischelle off on one of her many road trips and hikes around the country, photographing landscapes and scenes in nature that have more color than initially meets the eye.

The Only Palms. Shot in Hawaii last summer, I had no idea what to do with this photo until a few months ago. It was likely inspired by the music I was listening to or the mood I was experiencing. I love using the hot pink, yolk yellow and turquoise blue hues as my primary color palette, but the yellow had to be added in the form of a glowing sun to make this work. Knowing where to mask the shapes helped give the image dimension.

Sour Straws. I have a small “plant holder” series where I add glowing neon lines to photos to give it the effect of really existing within the landscape. They are digital interventions on the natural life around us to challenge the way we see. To create these, I look for photos that present a certain depth of field, which allows me to insert a shape into the focal plane. Masking the entanglements gives the illusion of it really being there and “holding” the plants.

Your Move. I think I was inspired by some glowing mushroom art and metallic cards at the moment when I created this. The image is one of many taken from a Utah road trip last summer. All I knew before editing this photo was that the sky would be hot pink, but the flow of everything else came organically. Having the balance of a cool and warm palette makes the image pop, so I made sure to paint in the little glowing blobs a green-ish blue color to contrast the red shrubs.

Mischelle’s tips, tricks and parting words of advice:

Just like Kristina, Mischelle had some advice on using Selective Color Adjustments. Here’s what she has to say on adjusting colors in Photoshop: “At the end of my coloring process, I rely a lot on Selective Color Adjustments to get the colors to a specific tone or shade. Gradient masks and playing with each layer’s opacity help make these adjustments look more natural and help the image more dimensional. My work often depicts sunsets, so I try to recreate the subtle transition colors with this process.”

On creating vibrant colors in Lightroom: “Using the HSL panel to enhance colors is like refining a precious stone. The sliders allow me to bring hues to a near-extreme point to help create contrasting yet complementary colors. For example, I would bring up the aqua tones in the blue sky and bring down the luminance. Then, I’d shift the green in the trees towards the blue end of the slider and increase the luminance. That way, the colors are balanced but still not truly in the same color family.”

On creative experimentation: “Push all the buttons! You won’t know what works for you until you try it. This pertains to figuring out how to use Photoshop as well as how to live your life. Always experiment, take risks and don’t give yourself too many boundaries; you’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t, and that’s how your style will be created.”

Illustrator – Marly Gallardo

Originally from South America and raised in New York, illustrator Marly Gallardo draws on her bicultural upbringing to inspire her ultramarine creations. Her distinct perspective shines throughout her illustrations, many of which take place in NYC and incorporate dreamlike elements influenced by the literary giants of Magical Realism. With a fantastical and romantic approach to her art, Marly likes to introduce surrealist features into scenes that skew the lines between fantasy and reality—like fire hydrant waterfalls—all with a sentimental jazz palette. Marly hopes her pieces convey the sentimentality of telenovelas… if the music were orchestrated by Miles Davis, that is.

Welcome To Art School . This is a collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design admissions department for a poster design sent to high school art teachers around the country. Inspired by my experience as a student, I created a luminous depiction of the magic and creative potential I felt on campus.

Penelope’s Bodega . Bodegas, Spanish for storeroom, are a sacred New York institution. Bodega culture took shape in the 50s, when the first generation of entrepreneurs left the Caribbean islands for the island of Manhattan. Penelope had a mural painted of her beautiful island on her storefront. When she really misses her native land, the painting spews ocean water.

Summer in the City . Summer in the City is an homage to a city upbringing and the power of children’s imagination in transforming it.

Marly’s tips, tricks and parting words of advice:

On creating shapes in Illustrator: “After I have a solid-colored shape defined, I like to use Pathfinder to add shadow and highlight effects. For example, I duplicate a shape, offset the duplicate and, under Pathfinder, divide it from the original. Voila! A new, effortless shape is generated within another. Now, all I have to do is tweak the color.”

On nailing commissioned artwork: “One scenario I’ve become familiar with is being approached for a commission, but the client has not specified details of the project in their email. I recommend following up with the questions you need answered before accepting. For example, ask about the dimensions of the artwork, the deadline, the budget, etc. That way you get the technicalities out of the way and don’t get involved in a long thread of back and forth messages. Don’t waste your time or the client’s. They would rather find out, sooner than later, whether they’ve found their artist or not.”

You’ve traveled with us around the world and back through our Creative Layover series, and now it’s time to return home. Don’t fret! Just because this series is over doesn’t mean the adventure is. Stay tuned for more international artist highlights and photography expeditions on our blog.

For more from these artists, check out their social channels below:

Kristina Varaksina | Instagram | Website

Mischelle Moy | Instagram | Website

Marly Gallardo | Instagram | Website

If you’re not ready to head home just yet, visit our last two layovers in London and New Delhi!

Topics: Creativity, Photography

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud